Strafford County Highpoint Trip Report

on Copple Crown (1,700 ft)

Date: August 2, 2008
Author: Lanny Wexler

I climbed Copple Crown, getting out just an hour before the big rains. Copple Crown was my 10th NH highpoint. My first NH highpoint was Mount Washington (6,288 feet, HP of Coos County) on 6 July 1974, a span of 34 years between Washington and Copple Crown.

The drive to Copple Crown was long. I left Waterbury, VT at 8:35 am and followed I-89 to Exit 11 in New London, NH and followed Route 11 and Route 28 through the Lakes District where I lost a bit of time in heavy traffic near Tilton and Laconia+ADs- not to mention there is no direct way because one must go around the lakes to reach Wolfeboro. I did not reach Sanbornton until 12:30 pm. I was going to fill up my water bottles at the Mobil "On the Go" Station at the intersection of NH 15 and NH 109 but was forced to buy water because of a long line to the rest room.

The sun had been out on most of the drive out but as I started my 2.6 mile hike to the summit the sky was becoming increasingly gray and dark and I knew I was on borrowed time. If I heard a few rumbles of thunder, I knew I would have to turn around and my long drive would have been for naught.

From NH 109, I had no problem locating Governors Road and Moose Mountain Road. I followed the pavement to the end of Moose Mountain Road, hesitated for a moment before proceeding further down the dirt track in my Prius. I saw the mud hole noted and turned around just short of it and parked along side the road, pointing face out. I think I could have made it past the quarter mile further but with the weather radio broadcasting heavy rains of one to three inches per hour and the chance of flash flooding I decided not to chance it.

My altimeter read 780 feet from the parking area. I read the signs the said Ellis Hatch Wildlife Management Area and a green board which had information about the Land Conservation Trust which has this 732 acre parcel that protects Copple Crown. Plus, there were maps of the ski trails and the trail to Copple Crown.

I saw the arrow that said 2.6 miles to Copple Crown and resolutely and nervously started up the trail. I was by myself and knew if I injured myself consequences would be dire as know one knew where I was and the threat of impending dangerous weather was at hand. The humidity was oppressive and the flies and gloom of the woods did not put me in a cheerful mood. I felt a lot of pressure to finish this 10th and final New Hampshire County.

At about 1:30 pm I started to follow the woods road north for at least a mile and a half, at one point turning left at the junction with the yellow sign and black arrow pointing left to join Ski Trail 22. The woods road was a bit rocky and a little muddy in spots. I passed two woods roads going off to the left but passed them by, until I saw an opening off to the left and saw the kiosk.

I saw the freshly painted blue blazes and began to follow the trail west and south as it began its surprisingly moderate climb to Copple Crown. The altimeter read 1130 feet at the kiosk and I had only 700 foot climb to the 1800 foot summit of Copple Crown. The trail was very well marked, a small stream was crossed about 5 minutes from the kiosk.

Then the ascent began. In addition to the blue blazes, there were frequent Copple Crown white arrow signs posted at every turn as the trail would its way to the summit. This is perhaps one of the better marked trails I've seen and took a lot of anxiety out of the climb. I climbed higher passing the junction to the eastern summit of Copple Crown which I would visit on my way back. The 0.3 mile trail leads to a nice view point but my objective was to reach the Stafford County highpoint before the heavens opened up.

I shortly reached the higher western summit which is slightly over 1800 feet. I walked over to viewpoint where you can get a glimpse of Lake Winnipesauke. I snacked on a banana before I turned my attention to the bushwhack. I had the trip reports with me and read them over. However, no one mentioned compass bearings. I set my compass to magnetic north and lined up the topo maps grid lines with the compass to about a 225 degree bearing. First, I headed over from the summit to the secondary summit to the southeast and took the 225 degree bearing from there. My plan was to go down slope in a generally southwesterly direction until my altimeter went below 1700 feet, the elevation of the Strafford Couinty highpoint. I was also looking for the red blazes as reported by Denis Hanson and Roy Schweiker.

The bushwhacking wasn't too bad. The woods were open, thick in a few spots and rather rocky. I proceeded cautiously, not wanting to risk a sprained ankle which could have been deadly. I constantly checked my compass and made adjustments, sometimes going a bit off course to traverse around any obstacles. At one point, I reached a cliff that forced me to steer around to the right, where I was able to find a more gradual slope. At one point, I passed an open area with some nice reindeer moss growing on the open rocks. At another point I found a sharp pointy rock sticking up. These would serve me well as landmarks on my return trip if I was to reach the summit of Copple Crown again.

I reached 1700 feet but no red blazes the ground leveled out a bit. I descended all the way to 1580 feet and found no blazes. My watch read nearly 4:15 pm and I knew I had to turn around. I had to be close but I never saw the red blazes. I had gone all this way and came out empty handed. I know I had to be really close to the Strafford County high point but I cannot prove it as I saw no red blazes and no canister or cairn as reported by others.

I regained the summit by 4:30 pm and hiked over to the eastern summit. I was back at my car before 6 pm and by 7 pm, after not finding any reasonable motel lodgings in New Hampshire or nearby Maine, I was on my way home. The sky opened up in torrents at 7 pm, with lightning and thunder. I was glad to make it up and down Copple Crown before the storm broke. If it was an hour later I would have been caught in the storm. It poured as I drove south on NH 16 but the rain abated as I reached I-95 near Portsmouth and I reached my home on Long Island about 1:45 am on Sunday morning.

In hindsight, I think the best way to approach Copple Crown is to obtain permission from the Copple Crown Community from, the west side of Copple Crown and follow the road to the top of the ski area within a couple hundred feet of the County line and follow the red blazes to the 1700-foot elevation. Trying to hike down to the red blazes and locate them is not the best approach. It would be much easier to come up from the western ski lift side and then follow the red blazes south and upward.